Spot reduction: Is it possible?
You have been working hard towards losing weight and it seems like your goal for the perfect body is just within your reach. But, to your frustration, there's one body part that is somehow not willing to let go of the accumulated fat. Would spot reduction help you get rid of the fat in that spot?
Fat accumulation happens in different areas in different people. Usually, excess body fat is stored in areas such as the abdomen, thighs, butt, and arms, but it can be stored in other locations on the body too.
Spot reduction means reducing the fat accumulated on a certain body part with targeted exercise. Spot reduction is many times used interchangeably with spot strengthening in the fitness industry, causing a lot of people to believe that they can lose fat from one specific area or from the 'trouble' spot. Spot strengthening increases the strength of an area, builds the muscle, and makes it look more defined; however, it might not reduce fat in that area. For example, practicing biceps curls can build the biceps muscles, but it wouldn't necessarily reduce the fat around your biceps. You can't just do crunches to get rid of the fat on your abdomen or do leg lifts to reduce thigh fat.
Thus, although spot strengthening is possible, spot reduction is not.
The basics of spot-strengthening exercises
Spot strengthening may not have drawbacks, but you should know how to incorporate it in your workout session and which exercises to perform. Just because an exercise is useful does not mean it's good for you. Isolated exercises are usually used for spot strengthening and to target individual muscles or muscle groups in your body. The disadvantage of isolated exercises is that they require less energy and don’t burn a significant amount of calories. For example, when you do a biceps curl, does it elevate your heart rate? Does it make you go out of breath? Do you start sweating? The answer is “No”.
Hence, from a weight-loss perspective, compound exercises (that involve multiple joints) are more beneficial as they exercise multiple muscles in one exercise and the effort required for the exercise is also more. This helps in expending more calories.
Spot-strengthening exercises are beneficial if you have an injury or if you are training for a specific sport.
To understand how exercise affects our body, let us understand how our body burns fat.
The fats in our body form triglycerides. These are the stored fats that the body can use for energy. However, before the body can use triglycerides for energy, they must be broken down into smaller parts called free fatty acids and glycerol, which can then enter the bloodstream.
While exercising, the free fatty acids and glycerol that act as fuel can come from anywhere in the body, not specifically from the part that is being exercised. Therefore, it is not guaranteed that the fat in one particular area will be reduced due to exercising that area.
The better approach
By now, you might have understood that there's no shortcut to better health and the only way out is through. The following tips will help you achieve better results than just spot reduction:
- Incorporate more compound exercises in your routine that will help you burn more calories and strengthen several muscles simultaneously.
- Reduce body fat, as exercises like crunches won't help you get well-defined abs if your body is covered in layers of fat. The first thing to do to achieve that is to reduce your body fat percentage and improve your overall fitness.
- Build muscle mass, as the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn while exercising and even at rest.
- Follow a calorie-deficit diet, which will help in cutting down your weight. After all, any workout plan is incomplete without an appropriate diet.
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